In this light-hearted celebration of inertia and invention, Lazy Susan, directing duo Terri Timely looks into the fictional story of how the Lazy Susan, the rotating tray you often see in family-style restaurants, was invented. The film opens with a quote: “laziness is the mother of invention,” before the protagonist, Susan, slides into the frame to say to the camera: “I never liked to move much, it wasn’t really my thing. Annie, my sister? All she did was move.” The film then turns into scenes of Annie somersaulting around the house and dinner table completing domestic tasks, along with constant criticism of Susan’s sedentary tendencies from her family. These scenes are interspersed with Susan’s constant lounging, but also shows the effort-saving devices that she’s invented – the snap bracelet, the spork, the “robo maid," and, of course, the Lazy Susan.
Terri Timely, the Oakland and LA-based team made up of Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey, primarily works in the commercial sphere, directing ad spots for companies like Geico, Orbit and Muscle Milk whose incredible ability to pack jokes, puns and visual surprises into the short span of half a minute should be admired. Outside their commercials and music videos, however, the pair tries to complete a personal project once in a while, like their previous documentary Dollhouse about a woman who makes hyper-realistic baby dolls.
Both Ian and Corey come from the Bay Area, with the pair meeting while attending UC Berkeley. One of their first few projects was working together on a music video for their friend’s band, The Pleased. “They had five thousand dollars. At the time we thought this was an insanely huge budget. We made the video and it got featured in the RES magazine DVD. Back then that’s how new work was disseminated, this shows how old we are!” Corey tells It’s Nice That.
“Between the two of us, our tastes span a diverse range of styles, but I think a common thread is that none of our work is overly serious,” Corey says. “We truly love commercial filmmaking as it’s always a new puzzle to solve. It tends to be a little more straight forward in terms of the goals of the project, which is nice and there are more constraints to deal with,” he continues.
“A lot of things we find interesting exist in a nether region for us, somewhere between a really good idea and a really stupid idea. That tends to be our favourite terrain to tread,” Ian says. “One time we were joking about if there was an actual lazy Susan who was a genius at getting out of work and constantly thinking of new ways to expend the least amount of physical energy possible. Then we started wondering aloud if most inventions started out with some kind of inspired laziness to get out of doing some work,” he continues.
The shoot, which involved meticulous production design as well as practical effects to display Annie’s dynamism and rotating visual motif, was ambitious and had to be carefully planned. “As we had our start in very low budget music videos in which we didn’t have the money for extra film to shoot more than what we would use in the edit, we tend to over-prepare with pretty precise photo boards and storyboards,” Ian explains. The result is this fictional short packed with visual ideas and amusing characters. “I think one of the main things that changed was when we found Monica Hong and Julia Morizawa who played Susan and Annie. They brought so much life to their roles. We couldn’t have been happier,” Ian continues.
The directors are currently working on other personal projects, one being a longer-form series about two duelling magicians that weaves in and out of the larger history of magic. “It’s been a fun project to research. There are so many odd little characters that we didn’t know anything about,” Ian says. In the meantime, try to spot as many of Susan’s inventions as possible in Lazy Susan and get inspired to come up with some of your own lazy devices with Terri Timely’s film.